Amazon Offers Free Shipping, Releases New Toy Catalog for Holiday Shopping

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Maybe it was bound to happen. With the first $1-trillion holiday shopping season looming, Amazon is using its e-commerce muscle to put a damper on some of the seasonal joy being experienced by rival Target.

Amazon’s new broadside came not long after Target announced free two-day shipping for any purchase for the holidays on hundreds of thousands of items, which observers contrasted with Amazon’s free two-day shipping only for members of its Prime subscription service, on “hundreds of millions of items.”

Now Amazon is offering free regular shipping to the general public for no minimum purchase amount in addition to its Prime offer. The new gambit can be expected to ward off Target’s attempt to eat into Amazon’s holiday online business as well as expose more American consumers to the benefits of free shipping in general—which could prompt more of them to investigate Prime membership.

Walmart, meanwhile, has been sticking with its offer of free two-day shipping on “more than 2 million items” but only with a minimum $35 purchase, which it has cut from $50.

All the jockeying for the favor of American shoppers right now is understandable, given the the US economy is on a high, disposable income is rising, unemployment is at record lows and the expectation of economists is for the best growth in Christmas-shopping sales in several years.

And in a throwback move to days gone by, Amazon has started mailing out holiday toy catalogs. Called “A Holiday of Play,” the 70-page printed book has dedicated LEGO, board game, plush toy and electronics sections. However, there are no prices listed—parents have to scan QR codes using the Amazon app that link to products on the e-commerce giant’s website.

Meanwhile, Amazon is keeping Americans guessing on another big matter: where it will build its “HQ2” second headquarters. Latest reports are that the company has decided to split its “second headquarters” into two new sites because it needs a total of about 50,000 new tech-oriented employees, and executives fear that not even the sites that are finalists—reportedly including northern Virginia, Dallas and Long Island City—can provide enough of that type of worker.

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